Affirmations are positive things that we tell ourselves to feel better about ourselves, or others, or situations which wipe out Negative Cognitions.
What’s a negative cognition? Well, that’s all the crap that we and/or others put in our brain over the years that basically tells us that we’re bad, that something’s wrong with us or that we will never succeed. Here are some examples:
- I’m stupid, I will never get a good job.
- If people know the real me they would see that I’m a fake and hate me.
- Crying makes me weak.
- If my parents never loved me than no one will.
- It’s my destiny to be used.
The result of #1 may be that we feel stuck in the job we’re in and don’t dare try for something better. This limits our belief in ourselves. Insteady try this, “I can get another job,” and slowly work up to this, “I have many job opportunities.”
The thinking in #2 may make us hide ourselves from others by masking our emotions, beliefs and needs. Then we never think that we have “real” friends and wonder why we do so much for everyone, but no one does for us. To fix this tell yourself something like, “My friends like me” or, “Some people like me,” and work your way up to, “I’m likeable” or “I like myself.”
For #3 we may have been told that we should never cry or that it’s never ok to cry in front of someone else. If we stifle that sad part of us we can never be truly happy (see that Disney movie, “Inside Out.”). This one will take some action to fix and you may need to allow yourself to cry in front of someone you really trust like your partner, your best friend, or your cat/dog. They may not have the reaction you would want them to have as it may make them uncomfortable and they may not know what to do, but I can pretty much guarantee they won’t go running from the room. Or you can start more slowly and tell yourself, “It’s ok to cry,” or, “everyone cries in front of someone eventually,” work your way up to, “It’s ok to cry in front of some people,” or simply, “Crying is a healthy expression of my feelings.”
If we find ourselves in #4 we may be right, but we may not be right as well. In any case, you’re loveable! Be selective in who you choose to love, open yourself to love and you will have it. Maybe not the love you dreamed of as a child, or saw in a Disney Princess movie, but a real one. Try starting with, “Someone must have loved me,” or if you know someone who did love you, a teacher, a grandparent think of them and say, “(insert name here) loved me,” and you can put your cat or dog (or whatever’s) name here if you can’t think of a person. Work your way up to, “I am loveable,” or “I am deserving of love.”
Number 5 tends to be what we tell ourselves when we are stuck in codependent relationships and don’t know how to change and maybe don’t want to change. Start putting yourself first and say no to people. It will be very uncomfortable at first, but eventually it feels great! We can take much better care of ourselves than anyone else and then we won’t attract as may needy people to ourselves. Try saying to yourself, “I will show myself love by doing one thing I want to do or one thing to take care of myself today,” and do it. Work your way up to, “I can meet my own needs and will only chose relationships with people who take care of themselves too.”
There is a caveat to all of this affirmation stuff. You have to at least believe a small percentage of what you’re saying on some level. I’m a big ‘ole girl and if I were to have just begun using affirmations and the one I chose was, “I’m beautiful and love every part of my body the way it is,” I would laugh and never do this again because I wouldn’t believe it. I would have to start more slowly and pick out some thing I like about my body, for example, “I love the colors in my hair,” or maybe, “I love how these legs have supported me my whole life and taken me to where I needed to go. Eventually I would work my way up to seeing the beauty in my body. Make sense?
And it’s not magic mumbo jumbo. If I’ve heard how fat I was at least 30 times a year for most of my life that screwed up thought is going to be down deep in my mind and it may take years of working on this one issue with affirmations to learn to accept my body the way it is and be grateful for what it’s done for me.
One must repeat these affirmations multiple times a day every freaking day! It seems like a lot to ask, but you’ll get used to it. I was taught that I should look at myself in a mirror while I said these affirmations and eventually I was able, but at first it was all I could do to mumble them looking down at my feet. If that’s where you need to start, that’s ok. Just don’t give up!
I once worked with a man who thought this was a load of crap. Literally. He said, “This is a load of crap and there’s no way I’m doing it.” He was very depressed and unhappy. I told him, “Try this as an experiment for 30 days. Put sticky notes with the affirmations all over your house, your car, your office where you will see them multiple times a day (or put some sort of sticker up that may not say the affirmation, but will remind you to do it multiple times a day). If you follow this daily and you do not begin to feel better you can come back to me and I will admit that I was wrong and it didn’t work for you.” He really liked the idea of telling me where to stick my affirmations which he believed would never work. Sadly (for no one!), he never got to do this as in three weeks he started feeling a little less depressed and anxious and hopeless. His wife reported that she was enjoying spending time with him as he was more of his old self and not so grumpy. And it lasted! From time to time over the years he would drop me a line with his progress.
So, I challenge you. Pick out 1-2 negative things that you say about yourself and change them into positive statements. Find some sticky notes or some stickers and put that positive statement, that you at least somewhat believe on some level, and tell it to yourself multiple times a day for at least 30 days. The worst thing that could happen is that you waste a few minutes every day. And the best thing that could happen? You could feel better. Go feel better now!
Wishing you love, happiness, serenity, and joy!
Mechele Evans, LCSW